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Special Event

Senate Democrats Introduce Energy Plan

Aired March 22, 2001 - 10:19 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we want to go ahead and listen to Tom Daschle, Senator Tom Daschle talking about the Democratic version of an energy plan. Let's go ahead and listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: ... gasoline prices just as the summer driving season begins.

Each of these problems has its own unique set of causes, but taken together, they demonstrate the overwhelming need for a new and comprehensive energy policy for our nation.

Senator Bingaman has taken the lead in developing a Democratic plan to meet America's energy needs. He has done an outstanding job, and I want to thank him and all of our Democratic colleagues who participated in this project for the work that they've done.

Today we are introducing the result of that work: a comprehensive plan that will provide energy security for our nation for decades to come. This plan will increase domestic production of energy, reduce demand by improving energy efficiency, promote the use of clean, renewable sources of energy, bringing our energy system into balance in a way that protects the environment. It sets up a system to improve vehicle efficiency. And it provides tax incentives to accelerate and increase the development of clean, renewable sources of energy. It invests in the technologies necessary to make existing power plants cleaner and more efficient. And it improves the effectiveness of our nation's electrical transmission system.

Finally, our bill provides incentives to improve the supply and distribution of traditional energy supplies like oil and gas. It does all of these things in a way that also meets the rising challenge of global warming. In fact, our plan will enable us to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to the 1990 level within the next decade and below the 1990 level by the year 2020.

We believe this is the kind of balanced approach that Americans want to meet their energy needs.

Unfortunately, it is not the type of approach the administration seems to be pursuing. Despite the administration's daily warnings about the energy crisis, the only solution the president has proposed is increasing the development of our public lands, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The fact is that any oil from the Arctic refuge represents at the very most a six-month supply. It would take up to 10 years to reach the market. It would have no impact on oil prices, but it would have a devastating impact on a place that is truly America's last frontier.

Now President Bush has said he would consider opening our national monuments to drilling.

Let me be clear: Drilling in our national monuments would be a monumental mistake. It would fail to meet our nation's energy needs. It would be a betrayal of our responsibility to protect our most precious lands for generations to come.

This comes on the heels of the president's reversal on his promise to seek carbon dioxide emission reductions from our nation's power plants.

We cannot drill our way out of this problem. And we cannot use our coming energy challenges as justification for an all-out assault on the environment.

What we can do is pass a bill that is balanced, that is effective, and that is affordable, one that moves beyond the false choice of energy verses the environment and toward a solution that is sustainable in every sense of the word.

That is what we are introducing. And it is now my pleasure to hand over the architect of this bill, Senator Bingaman.

SEN. JEFF BINGAMAN (D), NEW MEXICO: Thank you very much, Senator Daschle.

The Democratic approach on energy in this new Congress has been on two tracks. First, as you all can recall, we introduced a bill to deal with the immediate crisis that many families -- low-income families, especially -- are facing with regard to paying their utility bills. And that bill was added as an amendment to the bankruptcy bill. It is now awaiting action in the House. That needs to be passed, and we need the president to call on Congress to appropriate the funds so that people do not see their utilities cut off in the next few weeks or the next couple of months.

What we're doing today is introducing two bills for the long-term energy future of the country. The title of the bill is a good description of what it tries to do, Comprehensive and Balanced Energy Policy Act.

We're trying to emphasize the importance, not only of pursuing our energy future, but doing so in a way that takes into account climate change policy, because the two are inextricably mixed and are linked together. We need to, obviously, also emphasize increasing supply at the same time that we are, hopefully, decreasing demand and improving efficiency. And this bill reaches a good balance in that regard. On climate change, there has been a lot of concern, as Senator Daschle mentioned, about the president's recent retreat on CO2 emission. What we proposed here is to set up a commission, and the president needs to embrace this. It would be a presidentially appointed commission that would put us on a course to achieving 1990 emission levels by the year 2010. We believe that should be done on a bipartisan basis. We believe it can be done. We believe it's the right thing to do, as part of making an energy policy.

In trying to increase supply, which is essential, we are calling on increases and continued supply from all of our sources of energy: renewables, coal, oil, gas, nuclear. We have a variety of provisions in here, tax provisions, countercyclical drilling credits, production incentives for Alaskan gas to come to market in the lower 48, mandates to lease promising new tracts in the Gulf of Mexico.

We do believe that a lot can be done on the supply side to help solve the problem. On reducing demand, we have a provision, which I'm sure will prove controversial, related to increasing vehicle fuel efficiency.

There's one chart I just wanted to put up here to show the problem that we're dealing with when we deal with vehicle fuel efficiency. When you look at where petroleum consumption is occurring in our economy, you can see very quickly from this chart that the great increase in petroleum consumption is in this transportation sector. And unless we can deal with vehicle fuel efficiency, we will not be effectively reducing petroleum imports and petroleum consumption.

What we're proposing here is to set a cap, so that by the year 2008, we would be only 5 percent above where we are today in the amount of petroleum that goes into the light vehicle sector of the economy. That, we believe, is an achievable goal, and we believe that the secretary of transportation should work with the industry to help us achieve that goal.

We have various incentives for replacing old appliances, for improving the energy efficiency of buildings and facilities, for increasing efficiency at federal facilities.

Finally, let me say that we have in this bill a strong commitment to research and development, both to increase supply and to improve efficiency and energy.

To my mind, it is foolhardy to think we can have a comprehensive, balanced energy policy without a strong commitment to maintaining research and development in these areas. The budget that we are going to see in two weeks from the administration, I believe, is going to show significant cuts in funding for research and development related to energy, and I see that as very shortsighted.

So we look forward to working with our Republican colleagues and, of course, with the president and the White House to enact the provisions of this bill.

Senator Dorgan is...

KAGAN: We've been listening to Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman presenting the Democrats' idea, their bill for dealing with the energy crisis in this country. This is in response to the bill that was introduced by Republican Senator Murkowski of Alaska.

A lot of differences between the parties and how they want to approach the energy situation. In the Democrats' bill, it does not include provisions to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They also want to take into account climate change and they would also like to see a presidential commission set up to talk about reducing emissions.

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